Background

The hi-tech industry, Israel’s main engine of economic growth presents unmatched opportunities for upward mobility – but the Bedouin society has been largely excluded from this sector to-date.

The Negev Bedouin community is, by far, Israel’s poorest and most disadvantaged population. Per capita income is 50% of the rest of Arab society, and just 22% of the national average. Employment and poverty rates are among the highest in the country, and all Bedouin cities and villages are rated lowest on national socioeconomic rankings. The hi-tech industry, Israel’s main engine of economic growth, presents unmatched opportunities for upward mobility, but the Bedouin society has been largely excluded from this sector, with only a few dozen employees to-date. In fact, the Bedouin community is almost completely unaware of what hi-tech is in the first place, let alone the economic benefits it can provide.

Barriers to entry include:

  1. Top performing Bedouin students to pursue traditional career tracks like medicine and pharmacy
  2. Educational outcomes are not competitive for hi-tech, including low attendance and high dropout rates
  3. Lack of personal networks and connections, especially compared to their Jewish counterparts
  4. Disbelief that the industry will embrace them

This reality means that the Bedouin community is largely detached from access to economic opportunity and social mobility in Israel. Government support to the Bedouin community has primarily focused on low-income employment and education initiatives. In 2017, less than 30 Bedouin college and university students studied STEM subjects, or science, technology, engineering, and math. In its exclusion from the tech industry, the Bedouin community misses an immense opportunity for economic growth, diversity of professional trajectories, increase in per capita income, and even communal financial sustainability.

Siraj aims to catalyze and lead the entrance of Bedouin engineers into the Israeli tech industry. We take a holistic approach to achieving this aim, which includes:

  • building awareness among Bedouin community members and schools about the tech industry
  • encouraging and offering additional technical and soft-skills training to Bedouin college and university graduates
  • recruitment of candidates to work in the industry.

Siraj is set apart from other initiatives in the space of workforce integration and development, because it emphasizes the importance of creating a demand for Bedouin talent by establishing a social business, the tech company Siraj Technologies Ltd., that will primarily hire Bedouin engineers. By definition the Siraj NGO will always hold majority ownership of Siraj Ltd.

Leadership

Aharon Fogel
Aharon FogelChairman
Mr. Fogel is the Chairman of the Board of ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. He has held multiple executive roles within the Ministry of Finance, including serving as its Director General from 1992-1995.
Fadi Elobra
Fadi Elobra Board Member
Fadi is a serial entrepreneur who established Duroos, aimed at empowering Arab youth in Israel in their pursuit of higher education; and TALENTEAM, a head-hunting firm that eliminates barriers to private sector employment opportunities for Arab professionals.
Hanan Alkrenawi
Hanan Alkrenawi Board Member
Ms. Alkrenawi serves as the Mayor’s Advisor on Women’s Issues in the Rahat Municipality. She is the Director of the Riyan Employment Center’s Imtiaz Program to increase employment in Bedouin society in the Negev; a graduate of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev; and an experienced social worker with deep knowledge of the welfare system and an expertise in group facilitation.
Dr. Sara Abu Kaf
Dr. Sara Abu KafBoard Member
Dr. Sarah Abu-Kaf is a faculty member and lecturer in cross-cultural psychology in the Conflict Management and Resolution program at Ben Gurion University. She has an MA in Clinical Psychology; a PhD from BGU, and is the first clinical psychologist from the Bedouin society.
Prof. Jihad El-Sana
Prof. Jihad El-SanaBoard Member
Prof. El-Sana is affiliated with the Department of Computer Science at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and heads the department’s Visual Media Lab. In 1995, he won a Fulbright Scholarship for doctoral studies in the US, earning a PhD in Computer Science from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Khader Al-Sheikh
Khader Al-SheikhBoard Member
An engineer by training, Mr. Al-Sheikh also holds a BA in Business Administration from New England College. In addition, he completed the Advanced Course for Directors of Public Companies at Ben Gurion University.
Smadar Nehab
Smadar NehabBoard Member
Ms. Nehab is a hi-tech executive and entrepreneur with 25 years of experience launching and leading R&D organizations in Israel and California. In 2007, she left the industry to start and lead Tsofen, an NGO that aims to fully integrate the Arab community in Israel with the Israeli hi-tech sector.
Dr. Giora Yaron
Dr. Giora YaronBoard Member
Dr. Yaron serves as Chairman of Tel Aviv University (Executive Council), and is on the board of Amdocs. Dr. Yaron serves on the Advisory Board of the Ministry of Defence, and is an active founding investor of various hi-tech and med-tech companies.
Fahima Atawna
Fahima AtawnaExecutive Director
Fahima joined Siraj as its first ED in February 2019. She has over 10 years of experience working to promote the health and wellbeing of Bedouin communities in the Negev. Prior to joining Siraj, Fahima was a Program Manager or the Department of Health and Environment at AJEEC-NISPED, where she managed a team that designed, implemented, and evaluated community interventions in coordination with government agencies, philanthropic partners, and communities. Fahima holds an MA in Public Health from BGU, a BA in Industrial Management form Sapir College, and a Diploma in Chemical Engineering from the Technological College of Beer Sheva. She is a volunteer ambulance driver in remote Bedouin communities.

Partners & Supporters

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to our partners in achieving Siraj’s vision.